No. 3 Notre Dame is turning back to Brandon Wimbush to keep the Fighting Irish unbeaten.
Wimbush will start at quarterback against Florida State on Saturday, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press, because Ian Book is nursing an upper body injury,
Irish coach Brian Kelly told reporters at his post-practice Thursday news conference that Book had been limited at practice with an upper body injury and who starts would be game-time decision. Kelly called Book day-to-day.
But a person speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity said Wimbush is set to be the starter and Book is not expected to play after taking a hard hit to the back and ribs last week against Northwestern.
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“He (Wimbush) has gotten the bulk of work,” Kelly said. “We’ll see what happens Saturday.”
Kelly said freshman Phil Jurkovec got extra work in practice this week.
“If Phil as to play, we can win,” Kelly said.
Book replaced Wimbush as the starter in the fourth game of the season for the Fighting Irish (9-0, No. 3 CFP). He is completing 74.5 percent of his passes, tops in the FBS, for 1,824 yards, with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions. With Book starting, the Fighting Irish have averaged 38 points per game. They averaged 23.3 in Wimbush’s three starts. Notre Dame is 12-3 in games Wimbush has started the past two seasons.
“To have a guy like that who, first of all, our players just really respect and are excited if he has the opportunity to play. They’ll rally around him,” Kelly said. “He doesn’t have to come in if has to play and go win the football game. We’ve got some other pretty good pieces. We’ve got a pretty good defense.”
Wimbush, a senior, was the starter last season for the Irish, but his inconsistent and inaccurate passing led to Kelly switch to Book. Wimbush has completed 50.8 percent for his career, with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He has been an effective runner, with 1,044 yards and 16 touchdowns.
“I mean he’s good runner of the football, so you’re going to see him run the football a little bit. You don’t change a ton of what we do,” Kelly said.
Kelly said Wimbush is a “championship-quality” quarterback.
Notre Dame goes into its final home game of the season looking to stay undefeated and in position to reach the College Football Playoff. The Seminoles (4-5) have struggled to defend the pass this season, allowing 23 touchdown throws and 282 yards per game, but they have been stingy against the run (2.84 yards per carry).
“We watched film on them throughout the entire year,” Florida State coach Willie Taggart said. “We’ve seen Wimbush play and know what to expect out of him, too. The offense hasn’t changed much from that standpoint.”
Florida State has its own uncertainty at quarterback after James Blackman filled in for Deondre Francois last week. Taggart has been noncommittal about his starter, but Francois has said he expects to start.
The Irish finish the season with games against No. 13 Syracuse (7-2) at Yankee Stadium in New York and at Southern California (5-4).
AP freelance writer John Fineran in South Bend, Indiana, and Bob Ferrante in Tallahassee, Florida, contributed.
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